Gl¼hwein

As Temperatures Drop, Germany’s Favorite Winter Drink Warms
Body and Soul

While it might very well be an unseasonably warm fall by German
standards, it is bloody cold by mine. Having bid a reluctant
farewell to Santa Barbara’s late seasonal blast of warmth, I soon
found myself deposited in the middle of Berlin and its climatic
equivalent on an Indian Summer. The difference is that Santa
Barbara sees the temperature in the high 70s while in Germany it
hovers in the 40s. But I didn’t let the cold deter me — I threw on
my coat, bundled up my enthusiasm, and very briskly bounded from my
friend’s apartment through a typically gray Berlin morning to the
subway station.

No matter the season, Germans passionately embrace two age-old
social traditions: smoking and drinking. And just like the former
dominates indoor social gatherings, the later freely abounds out of
doors. While the sight of people standing around a sidewalk-mounted
imbiss (the German equivalent of a fast food
vendor) or riding on the subway with a beer in hand takes a little
getting used to, it is still far easier for me to accept than being
immersed in the smoke-choked confines of a bar or café. As my
friend and I wandered the wind-swept Freidricksaine flea market, I
quickly found myself yearning for something with warming power to
drink. But I didn’t want smoke with it.

With the brisk air now negating my jacket and nestling within
the core of my skeletal system, fate seemingly threw me a hand. I
noticed people walking toward me clutching white cups with steam
bellowing from them. Was it coffee? But not even Italians clasp
their coffee as endearingly as these people were embracing their
folly. The further we progressed into the crowd, the more cups
appeared and, as cold as I was currently feeling it didn’t matter
if it was chicken soup (I am vegetarian), I had to hold one of
those cups for myself. I had to feel the heat emanate through my
hands and the steam drift across my face. I had to get warm.

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Nestled amongst the stalls offering racks of vinyl records,
remnants of East German and Russian military paraphernalia, and
woolen overcoats that looked oh-so-warm was a table adorned with a
large ceramic urn. And hovering around it were people with white
cups! There it was and thankfully it wasn’t chicken soup. Nor was
it coffee.

It was Germany’s favorite winter drink, Glühwein. The drink is a relatively simple
affair consisting of hot red wine that has been embellished with
cloves and cinnamon. The heat brings out the volatility of the
alcohol within the wine, offering a warming sensation just like a
good strong malt whiskey would. And the addition of spices offered
a very feasible excuse for what essentially amounted to me drinking
red wine at 10 a.m. in the morning.

For 1.50 € a cup, Glühwein certainly hits the spot. And for another 1 €
you can add a shot of either rum or amadori. With cups in hand, my
friend and I continued upon our increasingly merry way and marveled
at the German foresight that abounded. The flea market circles a
small square park in the middle of East Berlin. Two transects later
we were halfway around the markets and looking for a place to
dispose of our cups.

After negotiating the other two transects we had completed our
loop and again found ourselves in front of the Glühwein stall. Two more cups and we were ready to go
around again. It’s not a bad way to spend a day. And, by the way,
it was all those laps of the market that made me feel so giddy, not
the Glühwein.

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